Ropework (also known as Malinespike Seamanship)


'De Delft' is being reconstructed as much as possible to be a near replica of the original ship of the line DE DELFT. When building 'De Delft' all of the rigging for the actual rigging plan is being provided with knots and whipping. In shipbuilding we call this 'ropework’.

Materials and tools

For the rigging plan for the 'De Delft' we have not opted to use traditional materials such as flax, linen, cotton, manila and hemp, but have decided to use synthetic materials. The material used for rope and for sailmaker’s twine for knots and whipping is also synthetic. The reason for this is that synthetic sails, rope and twine last longer and require less maintenance than natural materials, which rot from the inside out (in other words this is not visible); for example: hemp lasts 4 to 5 years.

Apart from a pair of scissors or a knife, no special tools are required for applying common whipping. When applying snaked whipping you will require a sailmaker’s needle and a sailmaker’s palm.


The rope man, who is usually the sailmaker or the block maker, generally wants to finish off the end of a length of rope. In this way he prevents the end of the rope from unravelling, fraying and fluffing. Here we describe three ways of finishing off a length of rope.

1.   Common whipping

For common whipping apply a number of turns around the end of a length of rope – which we call a ‘tamp’ – in the opposite direction to the direction of twist of the rope. The material used for whipping is sailmaker’s twine or as it is generally known sail twine: thin and strong twine that does not stretch. Common whipping is applied as follows:

  • Take a length of sail twine and form a loop on the end of it, which protrudes slightly from the end of the rope around which you will wind the whipping (image 9). The loose end of the loop has to be around 10 cm long.

  • Now wind the sail twine tightly around the rope, working towards the end. Make sure the windings are precisely next to each other (image 10). The area of whipping must be a minimum of 1.5 to 2 cm long.

  • When you almost reach the end of the rope push the length of sail twine through the loop (35.12). The sail twine must be pulled completely through the loop (image 13).

  • Now pull on the loose end of the loop that runs under the windings (image 14). The loop now pulls under the windings, bringing the end of the sail twine with it.

  • Now cut off the end of the sail twine using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors (image 15).

  • Both ends of the sail twine are now tightly wedged under the windings and the whipping is finished (image 16).

2.   Snaked whipping

Snaked whipping is an attractive and sure method for finishing off the end of a rope. For snaked whipping you need a sailmaker’s needle and a sailmaker’s palm (image 1). Snaked whipping is applied as follows:

  • First of all apply common whipping, whereby you actually take a longer length of sail twine (image 3). Make the windings as for common whipping and push the end of the sail twine through the loop. Pull the loop just so far that the loop is no longer visible and do not cut off the end of the length of sail twine that has been pushed through.

  • Now take the sailmaker’s needle and thread the sail twine through the needle.

  • Using the sailmaker’s palm, push the needle into the gap (the space between the two strands of the rope) and insert the needle through, under the windings, in the direction of the gap (image 4).

  • At the other end of the windings, draw the needle up and pull the sail twine tight over the windings, back to the position where you first inserted the needle.

  • Repeat this again if you want to have two hitches over the windings.

  • Now push the needle under the strand towards the next gap (image 5).

  • Now repeat the process: needle under the windings through the second gap, back again along the top, under the strand towards the third gap.

  • Repeat the same process for the third gap as well.

  • Finally, tuck the last length of sail twine securely under the windings using the sailmaker’s needle to assist, cut off the end and the snaked whipping is finished (image 8).

3.   Stopper knot

A commonly used knot for finishing a rope is a stopper knot. A stopper knot is tied as follows:

  • For the rope in which you want to tie a stopper knot, unravel the three strands by approximately 20 centimetres. Wrap a length of masking tape around the ends of the three strands in order to prevent fraying and fluffing of the ends (image 17).

  • Now take one of the strands, turn it completely around the end of the rope once and insert it – from underneath - through the loop that the strand has itself formed (image 18).

  • Now take the second strand and turn this once around the end of the rope as well. Make sure that the turn of the second strand is located under that of the first strand. Also insert the second strand – from underneath - through the loop that this strand has itself formed (image 19). Repeat this for the third strand.

  • Carefully draw all three strands tighter and make sure that the turns that the three strands make around the rope are laid next to each other. They can now be pulled tight. The stopper knot is now finished (image 20).
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Tools Required

See 'Materials and Tools' in main text

Materials Required

See 'Materials and Tools' in main text